Hi! I’m Rachel and I have a recently-rediscovered passion for sewing.
Those of you based in London and readers of Sarai’s Coletterie weekend reading post will no doubt be aware of the arrival of The Cornershop in East London. For those of you who have not yet discovered this little sewing marvel, the Cornershop is a derelict convenience store taken over and given new life by artist Lucy Sparrow. All of the shop’s 4000 plus items, the till and pricing gun have been handmade, sewn and stuffed by Lucy.
As a self-professed lover of textile art I hopped on the Overground to Hoxton and made my way to the Cornershop at the earliest opportunity.
Working predominately in felt and wool, the entire shop’s stock took seven months to assemble. Each store item has been meticulously recreated by Lucy, my personal favourites are the aluminium cans which are re-imagined in a plastic coated material. You can really catch their shine in the below image:
The newspapers and magazines are another highlight for me. Each one has been carefully observed and an appropriate cover selected, these are often aligned to their political leanings. For non-UK readers, the Daily Sport (centre bottom) is spot on.
All of the shop’s stock is made up of familiar grocery store items – from the newspapers and magazines above, to cigarettes, cat litter and bin bags. The contents of the freezers brought me right back to my childhood, the Mr Freeze ice lollies, Fabs and Twister ice creams a firm favourite for any school kid growing up in the nineties.
Lucy’s work has a serious message as she seeks to playfully question some of the realities of contemporary living and our relationship with consumerism. The art show seeks to engage the local community by providing an accessible experience, with the particular aim of reaching individuals with autism or groups who are often excluded from traditional concepts of art.
The choice of everyday items and the venue of the corner shop, a traditional hub of the community, increases the relevance of the art show and it’s value to the local neighbourhood.
I absolutely loved my visit to the Cornershop and my “Fluffy Shopping Experience”, I urge you to visit before it closes on 31st August. For more details on how to visit, check out the The Cornershop blog or Lucy’s website.
My latest make, the Chardon skirt, presented me with a dilemma: should I cut along the length wise grain ensuring the skirt structure is strong and draping correctly or do I take a risk and cut on the cross grain, thus preserving the design?
As we now know I chose the latter and luckily for me that risk paid off. I would not have taken that risk were it not have been for the help and advice of fellow bloggers and my trusty Reader’s Digest so for those of you also struck with this decision I thought it would be useful for me to share my grain line research.
Understanding grain line is one of the most important concepts for dressmaking and can be one of the most confusing for the beginner.
There are four key terms for understanding grain line:
The above diagram provides a handy illustration of the direction of the grain line.
The Reader’s Digest suggests that when folding and preparing your fabric for cutting it is important that your fabric aligns on three sides, if this is not the case or the edges align however the corners do not form right angles, then your fabric is skewed off line and must be realigned. If you are struggling to identify your grain line this fantastic post by Sarai at Coletterie provides a great guide to finding your grain.
By far and wide the best advice I received when aligning your fabric to the grain line is that it is important to follow the shape of the fabric as opposed to the direction a print. It is possible and relatively common that a print may be designed off grain.
The above is folded ready to be cut on the CW grain, the below image is folded ready be cut on the LW grain.
This brings us neatly back to the dilemma which inspired this post: should I cut on the cross wise grain to preserve the design and potentially risk the structure of my fabric?
I searched the internet far and wide for bloggers able to help me with this query and to summarise there seemed to be roughly a 50/50 split between those who believed that the fabric should be cut on length wise grain 100% of time and of those who felt it was OK to dabble with using the cross grain. This debate on Tasia’s blog Sewaholic was of particular help in understanding both sides of the argument.
From my research it appeared that cutting on the cross grain was most successful with fitted garments with a strong structure as the fabric did not have chance to twist and skew. The strong structure provided additional strength to the weft thread which was bolstered by the use of interfacing. Following this advice I analysed my Chardon pattern and decided to press ahead. You can see that make here.
Hopefully this post can go some way to helping you with your grain line questions, I would whole heartedly recommend taking the time to understand your grain line in order to get the best out of your garments.
The wait is finally over and the time has come to say hello or should I say bonjour to my Chardon skirt!
The Chardon is my latest make from French pattern company and my new-found love Deer and Doe. Here I am taking my brand new jupe on a test drive at Columbia Road flower market.
My Chardon skirt has formed a key part in two of my recent Cheatsheet posts: firstly as a tutorial for inserting inverted box pleats and secondly, going a little off piste with this pattern, as a walk through for inserting an invisible zip.
For those of you who have followed those tutorials, I thought you may like a closer view of the finished article. Here is an example of the back of skirt where you can see that slinky invisible zip.
I hope you agree that this style of zip was the way to go here, I feel that the seamless continuation of the design fully vindicates the decision.
As you will soon discover the tension between following the pattern versus making sacrifices to preserve the overall design of the garment runs heavily in this post. The greatest of these decisions relates to the choice of fabric and as a consequence the structure of the skirt.
Let me explain. When I first purchased 2 metres of the gorgeous fabric in Barcelona I didn’t quite notice that the pattern was different on both halves of the fabric. As you can see in the below image, one half of the fabric featured small tight green triangles and the other larger green, blue and white triangles with bird designs.
This was a fantastic discovery for me, the fabric was even more beautiful than I imagined! However in spite of this great luck, preserving the actual design presented me with an alternative problem – if I were to cut the fabric along the grain line as intended I would at worst lose the pattern or at best have the left side of the skirt displaying one design and the right side featuring another.
Remembering I had only 2 metres of fabric to play with and unfortunately for me no imminent plans to return to Barca, I had to make a decision as to whether to use an alternative fabric or to cut the fabric on the cross grain which presented me with a tremendous risk. All of my research told me that cutting on the cross grain would ultimately lead to a sacrifice in the fit and shape of the design, this would surely be an unwise move. However I also discovered that the effect could potentially be minimised if the design was fitted and had a strong structure.
I thought long and hard about this and reasoned that the Chardon would fulfil this criteria and a design of smaller triangles falling down into the larger shapes was worth the risk. I went ahead and cut my fabric and I’m not afraid to say I’m tremendously and even a little disgustingly proud of the result – just check out that shape and volume. I hope you agree that it was definitely worth the risk!
I also made two additional alterations to the pattern, the first in name of necessity and the second by way of design. Firstly I lengthened the skirt by an additional 1.5 inches to match the length of my Belladone dress. Secondly I omitted the bow and belt loops from the pattern as I did not want to distract from the waist band design. I really wanted those triangles to cascade down the skirt like so:
That’s all from me today, I am planning on posting my grain line research here in the coming week if you would like to find out more.
In the meantime I would love to hear about some the risks you may have taken with your garments. Where do you fall in the pattern versus design debate?
One of the biggest milestones of my fledgling dressmaking career was putting in my first ever invisible zip. The invisible zip is legendary in it’s infamy, the most painful of all pains in the butt, but when put in correctly the invisible zip is sexiest and slinkiest of all notions. My aim for today’s cheatsheet is to demonstrate that the invisible zip need not by a source of fear but rather the means for achieving an effortless modern look in your garments.
For today’s tutorial I will be diverting from my pattern and adding an invisible zip to my Chardon skirt. My reason for doing this is that I do not want to distract or break from the strong geometric print. I am a big believer in the hiding or disguising of anything which doesn’t add to the design of a garment. The choice to add the invisible zip here allows for a continuation of the fabric pattern and leaves the garment feeling clean and uncluttered.
Without further ado let’s get started on today’s cheatsheet.
1. Making your nip (optional)
To begin, we will need to follow a similar route to the exposed or channel zip tutorial in ensuring that we mark the nip in your fabric. For those of you who are following a pattern this should already be marked for you however if you are drafting your pattern or need to make an adjustment you will need to add this step.
Lay your zip flat on the fabric, the top of your zip should meet the top of your fabric. With your tailors chalk make a mark roughly 5cm or 2 inches prior to the end of the zip to create a short tail. The tail is one of the key differences of the invisible zip and is vital for keeping the mechanism as invisible as possible.
2. Sewing your seam
Readers of the exposed zip cheatsheet may experience a slight feeling of deju vu for this section.
Once you have marked your zip you are ready to sew your seam. Taking care not to exceed your mark, stitch from your nip to your seam to leave an opening the same length as your zip. For the purposes of this tutorial my seam is 1.5cm.
Once this is complete press your fabric open. I like to press the entire seam here, including the zip opening, as I feel it comes in useful later on when lining up the zip to the seam but it’s entirely up to you.
If you have not done so already, secure your seams with an overlocker or a zigzag stitch – it will be a real pain to try and do this later on!
3. Press your zipper teeth
Technically this is optional but I would strongly recommend pressing back the teeth of your zip at this point as it will be incredibly helpful when you come to attach your zip to your fabric.
You are aiming for the following effect:
3. Aligning your zip
With the right side of your fabric facing upwards, open the zip and place it face down on to the fabric. Just to note, you will need to leave your zip fully open for the duration of this process and only close once finished.
Next up, this is where your pressed zip comes in very handy as you will need to line up the pressed edge of your zip with the folded seam of your fabric like so:
Once aligned pin and/or tack the left side of the zip to the right hand side of the fabric. The tail of your zip should be moved out of the way to the wrong side of your fabric.
Take care at this point to ensure your zip is flat against your fabric so as to avoid any unwanted puckering.
4. Attaching your zip
This tutorial uses an invisible zipper foot, also known as a concealed zipper foot, for attaching your invisible zip. You can order one online here or alternatively visit your local sewing machine supplies shop. UK readers, I purchased mine from the ever handy John Lewis (you’ve got to love John Lewis). I would definitely recommend investing in the concealed zipper foot as I feel it provides you with a greater level of control than the standard zipper foot and stitches as closely as possible to the zipper teeth.
Your concealed zip foot, once attached to your machine, looks like this:
The two gaps at the bottom of the zipper foot are for inserting your zipper teeth. Place your fabric and zip underneath the gap and bring the foot down to meet the fabric. I often find at this point that the pressed teeth do not want to go into the gap, if you are having the same issue unroll the zip as if to press flat and then bring the foot down quickly to trap the teeth. You may have to try this a couple of times before the teeth are secure.
Now is time for my favourite bit, stitching the zip into place. As you stitch you will see that the foot literally shows that invisible zip whose the boss, forcing the teeth out the way whilst stitching as closely as possible to them.
Here I go, take that zipper teeth! I must admit this bit gives me a bit of a power trip but you aren’t obliged to feel the same way!
Back to the stitching, sew your way down the zip stopping a couple of millimetres prior to your chalkline so as to give space to zip and unzip your garment – this is very important!
5. Aligning and attaching the right hand side
Turn your zip over and repeat steps 3 and 4 attaching the right hand side of the zip the left hand side of the fabric (as your look at it from the right side). I sometimes actually prefer to turn my fabric over the wrong side for this bit but this is up to you.
Close your zip and press your fabric. If required use your iron to force the fabric over the invisible zip on the right side of fabric, this will disguise those teeth.
You should now have a very happily attached invisible zip like so:
That’s all for today but pop back on Sunday to see my completed Chardon skirt.
Enjoyed this post? Feel free to post your own tips and tricks for invisible zips below.
Today’s post is a call for help, I need your advice. On my recent shopping trip I bought two beautiful Japanese prints, the green geometric print earmarked for my Chardon and this delicate orange star print on left of this image:
Ever since I purchased this orange star fabric I have been searching for the perfect pattern. The perfect pattern has to be a great wearable garment and yet simple and understated enough not to distract from the fabric design. I’ve finally narrowed it down to two classic patterns: the Christine Haynes Emery dress or a second version of By Hand London’s Anna dress.
In the left corner we have the Emery dress:
The Emery is great vintage inspired dress which has the simplicity to carry a delicate design such as my orange star print without swamping it. The detail of the bow or in this version a collar add a bit of interest to the dress which may be missing from the Anna. I can just imagine the star pattern with a contrasting cream collar and short sleeves, similar to these beautiful versions from Adey at The Sew Convert. How gorgeous is the Pink Bird Collar?
Taking on the Emery is the Anna dress:
The Anna is a cool, casual dress with great clean lines which would suit the orange star fabric. I am familiar with the pattern having previously made the above version in an olive green and have been keen to make a second version perhaps with a V-neckline.
Hopefully now you can see my dilemma: one great fabric and two great dress patterns – what is a girl to do?
And so this brings me to my call for help. Which pattern do you think I should go for? Have you tried making the Emery or the Anna and do you have any tips? Or do you think I’ve missed a great pattern perfect this fabric?
To help you with this decision I can tell you that I have purchased 3 metres of the fabric so there are no issues there. The fabric a stiff cotton and similar in texture and structure to the organic cotton twill used in my 8523 E.